A Literary Technique That Works Wonders: Pun and Wordplay

Play-on-words is a literary technique that makes the words the main subjects for the purpose of amusement or some particular effect.

Hashtag: #ReplaceALetterRuinATvShow


A wordplay is a form of humorous writing. It is a literary technique for entertaining readers by manipulating the sounds and meaning of words. Characterized by ambiguity, wordplay is also a form of creative linguistic that takes advantage of words with similar meanings to grab attention.

A pun is a subtype of wordplay that uses a word (one-word puns) or group of words (compound puns) with several meanings or a sound to make it funny. A good example is funny puns using compound puns or replacing two or more words to change their meaning such as “Santa’s helpers are subordinate Clauses”.

When a writer substitutes a word with another similar-sounding word, the result is homophonic puns. For example,“The butcher refused to accept my challenge that his knife was dull because the steaks were too high”. In contrast, when the writer uses a word with two different meanings, the resulting puns are homographic puns such as “Yes, he is the same optometrist who fell into a lens grinder and made a spectacle of himself”. There are also funny animals puns such as “A horse is a very stable animal”.

Funny Puns in Classrooms and in the Internet

The pun is a type of wordplay that many authors and poets create to bring fun to the classroom. Since humor is a good motivator, wordplay enriched books and make schoolchildren interested in language and vocabulary. Teachers used wordplay in the classroom to encourage students to expand their vocabulary and challenge their belief about the meaning of the words. Wordplay also helps students see the connection between words.

Wordplay extends beyond the classroom to the Internet. Various funny puns are all over the Web bringing a smile to everyone’s face. One-letter puns challenge from social media user #ReplaceALetterRuinATvShow to replace a letter of a TV show title was accepted by fellow users and many are quite good with vocabulary. For example:

  • Price is Right” to “Prick is Right
  • Dr. Who” to “Dr. Why
  • America’s Top Model” to “America’s Top Modem

There are puns about technology, puns created by Internet geeks, 15 most hilarious puns, clean and dirty puns, and banned puns that allegedly breached China’s law on standard spoken and written Chinese. However, the fun with puns continues with more clever puns such as:

  • People who say they from constipation are full of shit
  • Never trust atoms, they make up everything
  • The person who invented the door knock won the No-bell prize

Wordplay and its popular subtype have a number of beneficial applications. Aside from expanding classroom vocabulary, enhancing the motivation of language learners, and creating a word-rich classroom, English literature masters extensively used the literary technique in their plays and poetry. William Shakespeare, for instance, used wordplay to produce various, life-like representation of a complex human personality. Hebrew Bible writers frequently obscure the true meaning of God messages using wordplay.

Wordplay nowadays is widely used in product advertising tagline to draw the attention of readers. Advertisers make good use of wordplay such as:

  • Thirst come, thirst served” of Coca-Cola in 1932
  • Put a Tiger in Your Tank” of Exxon
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